Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly plans to stay at the centre of political life after he officially leaves the Kremlin next year. At the relatively young age of 55, and with his popularity soaring, Putin is reluctant to hand over the reins of power.
The solution? He will stand as a candidate for the pro-Kremlin “United Russia” party in December’s parliamentary elections with a view to becoming prime minister.
Already credited with up to 55 percent of the vote, “United Russia” still stands to benefit from the President’s 70 percent support.
That popularity is unlikely to be challenged. Thanks to a recent cabinet reshuffle, Viktor Zubkov, tipped by analysts as one of Putin’s annointed successors, will be unlikely to overshadow him.
First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev feature among the other potential Kremlin successors. Both fit the profile for a “secondary” president standing alongside a strong prime minister.
The opposition is struggling to achieve unity and find motivation. Only three percent of Russians say they are prepared to vote for them. The former chess champion Garry Kasparov and the former Prime Minister Mikhail Kassianov are now a joint force following Kasparov’s recent nomination as the parliamentary candidate for “Other Russia”.
Arguably, the only effective opposition in Russia today is that of Gennadi Zyuganov’s Communist Party. With a potential 20 percent of the legislative vote, it is likely to be the only party capable of entering the Duma alongside “United Russia”.
The threshold of support for representation in the Chamber was recently lifted from five to seven percent.